Australians are enthusiastic travellers and rank among the world’s most active tourists in both domestic and international markets. In 2018, Athan Didaskalou (below, left) and Richard Li (below, right), two Melbourne-based friends and entrepreneurs, were looking for ways to shake up the industry with a local product that could stand up to the suitcase goliath Samsonite. “We thought to ourselves, ‘What if we make a $1,000 suitcase with all the quality and all the features that the $1,000 suitcase would have, but we deliver it at a $300 price point?’ ” says Didaskalou.
To enable such lean prices, their company, July, which also sells a range of bags and travel accessories, follows a direct-to-consumer model. “We are the distributor, we are the manufacturer, we are the retailer, we are the after-sales service team,” says Didaskalou. Their luggage is tough, stylish and distinctive, thanks to its unique egg-shaped shell. It’s available in a broad suite of colourways and includes customisable options. A lifetime warranty on manufacturing faults and generous return policy reinforces the founders’ belief in the products’ longevity.
“We’re an extremely materialistic, over- consumptive nation,” says the Visionary Awards judge Michael Elias, the founder of Upparel. “Anything designed to combat churn — to last a lifetime — is incredible.” Elias also praises the brand’s growth despite Covid-19 travel restrictions. “The element of resilience for a luggage brand to see through Covid and come out the other end is extraordinary,” he says.
Says Didaskalou of surviving the border closures: “Nobody left July and we didn’t have to get rid of anybody. We all sort of buckled down and spent the time in product development mode. That meant we ended up launching the lightest double-wheel suitcase in the world, at 1.8 kilos.”
July already has four Australian retail outposts and a presence in the United States, and it is preparing for greater expansion in 2023, including launches in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. “And definitely some more product and some really unique materials,” adds Didaskalou. Think sustainable and colour-friendly. “We don’t stop. We love to hit it.”